Former Arsenal defender Oleg Luzhny insists it was an ‘easy decision’ to return to Ukraine and help fight off Russian troops despite the ‘very dangerous’ situation in his home country.
Luzhny, who won the Premier League and FA Cup in his four-year spell with the Gunners, followed a number of high-profile sports stars in heading back to Ukraine to join the fight against Russia earlier this month.
Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine at the end of February has had a devastating effect on their Eastern European neighbours, with homes and buildings across the country in ruins and almost 1,000 civilians killed.
As well as Luzhny, who is currently separated from his family while fighting for the country in Kyiv, legendary boxing brothers Wladimir and Vitaly Klitschko, pound-for-pound master Vasyl Lomachenko and unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk are also battling Russia on their country’s front line.
And despite the troubling scenes playing out, Luzhny did not have to think twice about returning home to help Ukraine at its time of need.
‘The situation now in Ukraine is very, very tough, because of our Russian neighbour,’ the 53-year-old said on Sky Sports.
‘Everyone is surprised about this situation. And the situation is very dangerous.
‘The Russians have destroyed a lot of houses, road, business centres. Sometimes the missiles are coming two or three times during the days, and at night as well. It is very very dangerous.
Ex-Arsenal star Oleg Luzhny says it was an ‘easy decision’ to return to help Ukraine fight Russia
Luzhny, 53, won the Premier League and FA Cup in his four-year spell with the Gunners
His home country has been decimated after Russian troops launched an invasion last month
Luzhny admits the current situation in Ukraine is ‘very dangerous’ amid the ongoing war
‘It was an easy decision to come back here. I love this country. I want to fight with my friends to defend my country, against the Russian army. Everyone has to fight. You have to fight for your country. It was an easy decision.
‘We have groups of five or six people, and some policemen. And we have a special area we walk around for 12 hours, every two or three days.
‘It’s hard of course. It’s difficult, but I am okay. There has been a lot of damage to our country. Here in Kyiv it’s okay, not too much. But in the country, in Mariupol, it is much harder.
‘My wife stays here with me and my children stay away. They have their own jobs. All my friends are staying to fight. No one is leaving.
‘I don’t know when I will see my family again. When this war ends, after we win and we have one big party. I don’t know if we will have peace soon. The situation is not under control. We don’t know what Putin has in his brain.
But the Gunners hero didn’t have to think twice about heading to Kyiv and joining the fight
He insists the people of Ukraine do not fear Russian troops despite the troubling scenes
‘We don’t panic. We are strong inside. We have a good spirit inside. Our soldiers are fantastic. They are not scared of the Russians.
‘The Russians are scared of us now. Because they are going back home now. We have good positive feelings.’
Ahead of their recent 2-0 win over Leicester, Arsenal showed their support for Luzhny by hanging a shirt with his name on up in the dressing room, while also including him in the squad list on their matchday programme.
And the former right-back was appreciative of their gesture, saying: ‘I listen about this and I started to prepare for the game. It was a nice surprise for me.
‘I want to say thank you to Arsenal, the club and the players, from me and my country, thank you for your support.
‘They help us by supporting us. I would like to thank all the British people and the UK Government for all the help for us.’
Arsenal recently hung a Luzhny shirt up in the dressing room before their win over Leicester
The ex-defender’s name was also included in the squad list on their matchday programme
Like Luhly, former two-weight world boxing champion Lomachenko is also hellbent on remaining in Ukraine and protecting his country until the war with Russia ends.
The 34-year-old has even turned down a world-title shot at lightweight king George Kambosos Jr to stay and fight on the front line, a move his rival insisted he ‘totally understands’ on social media.
Usyk, meanwhile, could be set to return to the UK and begin preparations for his rematch with Anthony Joshua this summer.
The former undisputed cruiserweight champion is contractually obliged to meet Joshua for a second time after getting the better of him back in September.